Hands up who had a jheri curl? Come on, don’t lie now! Lol! I know I had one. I was 11 and it was the late 80s. I remember I was just starting secondary school at the time, and my best friend then, who is also my best friend now, still teases me about the fact that I always used to use my finger to flip up the fringe, as to stop the ‘jheri-juice’ from dripping into my eyes. I’ve still got my school photo sporting the style, and no, I’m not going to post it here!
It might be a bit of an embarrassing thing to admit now, but having a Jheri Curl back in the day was a sign that you really were cool and fashionable. One of first people to make the style really trendy was Michael Jackson. The style was his graduation from the Afro, which he also helped popularise.
He wore the Jheri Curl in all his early iconic videos, including Rock With You, Billie Jean, Beat It, Bad and of course Thriller! He even wore it in the infamous Pepsi advert, the one where his hair caught fire during filming!
Phillip Michael Thomas (left), who played Ricardo Tubbs in hit 80s cop drama Miami Vice, and Ice Cube (second left), Eazy E then in gangsta rap group NWA, Rick James, Salt N Pepa and Michael Jackson’s Thriller co-star Ola Ray also wore the look. And actor Samuel L Jackson resurrected it to play infamous bible-quoting hit-man Julius in Pulp Fiction, in the early 90s.
The look, which was worn by black people, was achieved by adding a chemical perm that relaxed the natural tight curl of black hair, thus resulting in much looser curls. It was created by the late shampoo guru Jheri Redding, who reportedly invented the original perm formula, by experimenting with ingredients (including vinegar and mayonnaise) found in his kitchen, in the 1950s. He then went on to parlay it into a multi-million pound business, which encompassed inventions such as creme rinse, PH-balanced shampoo and of course the perm product Jheri Curl.
While the style looked slick, it caused all sorts of problems elsewhere, mainly the mess it made. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who experienced blackened shirt collars where the juice had dripped or hair had rubbed. To say the style, often referred to as the wet-look, due to it being.. well.. wet, high maintenance, was an understatement. It need daily applications of activator to keep it looking glossy, regular retouches at the salon, or courtesy of your mum using the home-friendly kits. In addition you also needed to wear a plastic cap top bed to retain the moisture of the do!
To summarise the hilarity of it all, who can forget that classic scene in the Eddie Murphy comedy film Coming To America, where a family of Jehri Curl wearers get up from where they are sitting on a sofa, only to leave behind three wet patches on the head-rest? Classic! Peep the hilarious commericial that also featured in the film, below!